Political controversy has erupted in Bulgaria over reported comments by Turkish ambassador Hasan Ulusoy calling on the state to encourage the study of Turkish as a foreign language.
Ulusoy was reported to have said that Turkish investors in Bulgaria wanted their employees to know the Turkish language, and doing so would encourage Turkish investments in the country.
Bulgaria goes to the polls in European Parliament elections on May 26. Relations with Turkey are always a complex domestic political issue in Bulgaria, given how nationalists tend to invoke the five centuries of Ottoman rule, and May 2019 would hardly be the first time that relations with Ankara become a political football.
The reported statements by Ulusoy brought reactions from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova, whose parties are in a tight race in the May 2019 European Parliament vote, as well as from the Bulgarian nationalist VMRO.
The reports also led to an announcement by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva that she had told Ulusoy to come to the ministry on May 12 to explain his words.
“The ambassador’s words sound disturbing because the Bulgarian government has never hindered freely learning a foreign language,” a Foreign Ministry statement on May 11 said.
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(Archive photo: Borissov and Ulusoy in January 2018)